Cricket facing its own climate test

Cricket facing its own climate test
Spectators sit under plastic sheets as the match between Pakistan and New Zealand during their Twenty20 international at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium on April 18, 2024 was stopped due to rain. (AFP)
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Updated 25 April 2024
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Cricket facing its own climate test

Cricket facing its own climate test
  • With international cricket played throughout the year, the probability of matches being affected by adverse weather has increased

Rain is the scourge of cricket. It has the capacity to whip up conflicting feelings. Players may feel that it has rescued their team from looming defeat or denied them of certain victory.

Spectators may feel the same way but will not have the cover of a pavilion or dressing room in which to shelter. Furthermore, they are likely to feel deprived of part of their entrance fee. These feelings used to be commonly associated with cricket in the British Isles. This may still linger, given the wet start to the 2024 county cricket season, but it is no longer universally the case.

In the UAE, of all places, a year of rain is reported to have fallen in 24 hours, from late Monday to Tuesday. At 3 p.m. on Monday it was as dark as the night. Some reports suggested that cloud seeding was the cause, but why might that have been deployed at that time of year? The EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service reports that the Earth recorded its hottest March on record, the 10th consecutive month to reach that feat. These all-time monthly highs were observed both in the air and in water. The Copernicus report judged that the temperatures were the result of decades of human-caused warming and El Nino climate patterns.

Obtaining a consensus on the causes seems beyond reach, although data points to an extraordinary surge in temperatures around the planet. This may stop once El Nino patterns end and temperatures cool. It is not yet possible to know if a fundamental shift has occurred in the Earth’s climate. In this uncertain moment, longer-term decisions have to be made by those responsible for running cricket.

An example of this is real in Worcester, England. Since 1896, Worcestershire County Cricket Club’s home has been at New Road, nestling under the watchful eye of the neighboring cathedral. This provides it with iconic status in the eyes of the cricketing world. The ground also sits on the west bank of the River Severn which, in recent years, has flooded with increasing regularity. This season, the county’s first two matches cannot be played there because the ground has not recovered from the winter’s flooding. Instead, they will be played at Kidderminster, 25km north.

The increased frequency and severity of flooding is causing the club’s management to assess alternative options to sustain its future. Amongst these are improved flood-alleviation measures and a move away from New Road, a prospect that is anathema to many supporters. The city is mindful of what happened to its soccer and rugby teams. The former moved grounds in 2013, resulting in a nomadic existence for a decade and a drop of three levels in the game’s pyramid. Its rugby team entered receivership in October 2022.

This sorrowful tale, thrown into stark perspective for Worcestershire CCC by adverse climate events, differs from the effects of adverse weather in other parts of the world. In the UAE, the effects were to cause the cancellation of a quadrangular tournament between the women’s T20 teams of the UAE, the US, the Netherlands and Scotland in Abu Dhabi. This was planned as a warm-up event before the ICC women’s T20I qualifying tournament in Abu Dhabi, set to open on April 25. Players have been deprived of valuable match practice, but that deprivation pales against that suffered by local residents.

During the Asia Premier Cup in Oman, there was rain, not of UAE proportions, but sufficient to disrupt some matches. The urbane curator of south Indian descent, Annop C Kandy, remarked that he had rarely seen rain in his eight years in charge and would normally expect temperatures in the 40°C range during April — an antidote to notions of a warming planet. He also revealed that whatever rain did fall came from the west and was short-lived. Unusually, this rain was from the south and southeast.

It caused much work for the curator and his staff, who coped admirably, notably when placing covers over the pitches during heavy windy conditions. Six of the 24 matches were shortened, two to 18 overs, two to 15 overs, one to 11 overs and one to eight overs. The last one affected Saudi Arabia and Nepal, with the latter winning with four balls to spare. It will never be known how the match would have played out if 20 overs had been possible.

Given that international cricket is now played around the world throughout the year, it should be no surprise that the probability of matches being affected by adverse weather has increased. It also seems that the severity of the impact is increasing. A recent example of this has occurred in Scotland. Unprecedented poor weather delayed pitch preparation at a ground near Dundee where a Cricket World Cup League 2 tournament between Scotland, Namibia and Oman was postponed. Originally due to take place between May 2 and 12, it is now scheduled for July, with the agreement of the three countries and the International Cricket Council.

It should not be forgotten that the 2023 Indian Premier League final was affected by rain in Ahmedabad. The match was originally scheduled to be played on May 28, but was postponed to the reserve day, May 29. This was the first time that the IPL final had been postponed because of adverse weather. Chennai Super Kings’ response was delayed for over an hour by rain and then the target adjusted with the innings being reduced to 15 overs. This outcome for a showpiece final was not ideal.

Although rain is regarded as cricket’s traditional bete noire, other climate issues have begun to be felt. During the ODI World Cup in India last November, extreme heat levels affected players, as did very high levels of air pollution, especially in Delhi. Cricketers and their administrators can do little to prevent the causes of these problems. What they are faced with is the need to devise and adopt measures which ameliorate the impact of climate issues and enhance the game’s sustainability. This may be about to get more difficult.


Emotional Boult calls T20 World Cup exit his ‘last day’ for New Zealand

Emotional Boult calls T20 World Cup exit his ‘last day’ for New Zealand
Updated 18 June 2024
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Emotional Boult calls T20 World Cup exit his ‘last day’ for New Zealand

Emotional Boult calls T20 World Cup exit his ‘last day’ for New Zealand
  • Boult’s tally of 317 wickets in 78 Tests, is the fourth highest by any New Zealand bowler

Tarouba, Trinidad and Tobago, June 17, 2024 Agence France Presse: Left-arm paceman Trent Boult said he had played his “last day” of international cricket after New Zealand’s disappointing T20 World Cup campaign ended with a seven-wicket win over Papua New Guinea in Trinidad on Monday.
His 13-year stint in international cricket appeared to have ended in the downbeat setting of a ‘dead’ T20 World Cup game.
“It feels a little bit weird, a few emotions obviously the last couple of days,” said Boult.
Pressed on whether the game represented his final New Zealand appearance, Boult added an element of doubt: “I haven’t thought much further than this, I’m in no position to comment right now. I enjoyed being out there one last time.”
Defeats by Afghanistan and tournament co-hosts the West Indies earlier in Group C had helped end the Black Caps’ hopes of qualifying for the second-round Super Eights.
Papua New Guinea had also been eliminated before the match in front of a sparse crowd at the Brian Lara Stadium.
Boult took two wickets for 14 runs as PNG were skittled out for 78 in an innings where fellow quick Lockie Ferguson finished with a remarkable 3-0 from his maximum four overs but
“Gutted to not go any further, but I’m very proud of what I’ve done with the Black Caps and sad it’s my last day with New Zealand,” said Boult.
The 34-year-old has been infrequently selected for international duty since being released from his New Zealand central contract in August 2022, allowing him to play in more domestic T20 leagues abroad.
The swing bowler did feature in New Zealand’s 50-over World Cup campaign last year, where they reached the semifinals only to suffer a 70-run defeat by tournament hosts India at a packed Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.
Boult’s tally of 317 wickets in 78 Tests, is the fourth highest by any New Zealand bowler. Longstanding new-ball colleague Tim Southee (380 Test wickets) is second, behind Richard Hadlee (431 wickets).
“I’ve shared a dressing room with Tim Southee for well over a dozen years,” said Boult, with the pair both involved when New Zealand beat India in the inaugural 2021 World Test Championship final. “It’s a partnership I’ve enjoyed forming, and we’re very good friends off the field.”
Boult’s last Test was against England at Headingley nearly two years ago, with the World Cup semifinal the most recent of 114 one-day internationals that yielded 211 wickets in total.
New Zealand captain Kane Williamson paid tribute to Boult by saying he had been a “great servant of the game” who was “consistent in all formats.”
The star batsman added: “It’ll be sad to see him go, it’s been quite special being with him throughout his career.
“He’s got such an attitude for getting better. He trains very hard, he’s as fit as he’s ever been. He knows how he wants to operate in all formats. He sticks his chest out and performs well for his country.”
“He’s made a fantastic contribution to our game and he’s created a space for new players to come in and meet the standard that he’s set.”


England bat in rain-hit must-win T20 World Cup game against Namibia

England bat in rain-hit must-win T20 World Cup game against Namibia
Updated 15 June 2024
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England bat in rain-hit must-win T20 World Cup game against Namibia

England bat in rain-hit must-win T20 World Cup game against Namibia
  • England are currently two points behind Scotland in Group B
  • Title-holders England inflicted an eight-wicket thrashing of Oman on Thursday as they chased down a target of 48 in just 19 balls

NORTH SOUND, Antigua and Barbuda: Reigning champions England were sent in to bat by Namibia captain Gerhard Erasmus after rain reduced their must-win T20 World Cup game in Antigua on Saturday to an 11-overs per side contest.
Anything other than a victory would see Jos Buttler’s men knocked out, with Scotland joining already-qualified Australia in the second-round Super Eights before the two countries meet later Saturday in St. Lucia.
England are currently two points behind Scotland in Group B but with a superior net run-rate that will be the tie-breaker if both teams finish level on points.
Title-holders England inflicted an eight-wicket thrashing of Oman on Thursday as they chased down a target of 48 in just 19 balls — the largest win in T20 World Cup history in terms of balls remaining.
But the game with already-eliminated Namibia is England’s last in a Group B where their opening match against Scotland ended in a washout before they suffered a convincing 36-run loss to Australia.
Even if England beat Namibia, they could still be knocked out should Scotland achieve a stunning upset win over Australia or if that game ends in a no-result.
England, in a game delayed by three hours, made two changes to the team that hammered Oman, with left-arm paceman Sam Curran and ‘death’ bowler Chris Jordan replacing express quick Mark Wood and spin-bowling all-rounder Will Jacks.

Teams
England: Phil Salt, Jos Buttler (capt/wkt), Jonny Bairstow, Harry Brook, Moeen Ali, Liam Livingstone, Sam Curran, Chris Jordan, Jofra Archer, Adil Rashid, Reece Topley
Namibia: Nikolaas Davin, Michael van Lingen, Jan Frylinck, JP Kotze, Gerhard Erasmus (capt), JJ Smit, David Wiese, Zane Green (wkt), Ruben Trumpelmann, Bernard Scholtz, Jack Brassell

Umpires: Adrian Holdstock (RSA), Langton Rusere (ZIM)
TV umpire: Rashid Riaz (PAK)
Match referee: Ranjan Madugalle (SRI)


US cricket team advances to second round in Twenty20 World Cup debut at Pakistan’s expense

US cricket team advances to second round in Twenty20 World Cup debut at Pakistan’s expense
Updated 15 June 2024
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US cricket team advances to second round in Twenty20 World Cup debut at Pakistan’s expense

US cricket team advances to second round in Twenty20 World Cup debut at Pakistan’s expense

LAUDERHILL, Florida: The United States cricket team made more history by reaching the second round in its Twenty20 World Cup debut after its last group game against Ireland was washed out on Friday.
Rain meant the match at Broward County Stadium was abandoned without a ball bowled, advancing the Americans to the Super Eight stage and automatically qualifying them for the 2026 Twenty20 World Cup in India and Sri Lanka.
The US qualified for this T20 World Cup only as a co-host with the West Indies, but it has used home advantage to make a stunning first impression in its first major cricket tournament.
While the Americans progressed alongside unbeaten India from Group A, former champion Pakistan and winless Ireland were eliminated from Super Eight contention.
Pakistan won the title in 2009 and reached two more finals, including at the last T20 World Cup in 2022. Pakistan has failed to get out of the group stage for the first time. Ireland was expected to be a threat, too. The Irish also reached the second round on debut in 2009 and repeated in 2022.
The competition point from the washout was enough for the US to advance after beating Canada in Texas and stunning Pakistan in Texas during the first week.
Tying Pakistan in regular overs then beating it in a super over was one of the greatest upsets in the tournament’s history.
The Americans were thumped by India, one of the title favorites, as expected on Wednesday but the hosts’ progression without being able to play on Friday was still well deserved.
The umpires made four inspections of the wet outfield before heavy rain arrived at around 1:30 p.m. local time and the match was called off three hours after its scheduled start.
The 17th-ranked US joined the West Indies, India, Australia, South Africa and Afghanistan in the Super Eight, with two more teams yet to qualify. The Super Eight starting on Wednesday splits into two groups, with each team guaranteed three games to try and reach the semifinals.
Nepal wins toss
At Kingstown, St. Vincent, Nepal won the toss and chose to bowl in its later match against Group D leaders South Africa, the first international match between the teams.
South Africa already has qualified for the Super Eight stage after winning its first three matches against the Netherlands, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. South Africa’s first match in the Super Eight playoffs is next Wednesday against the US in Antigua.
Nepal lost to the Netherlands in its opening match and its second match against Sri Lanka was rained out, meaning this will be its first game in 10 days. It is also the first match at the tournament to be played in St. Vincent.
Nepal captain Rauhit Praudel said he elected to bowl first to take advantage of easier batting conditions in the second innings. Proteas captain Aiden Markram said he would have chosen to bat first.
For the first time at the tournament, Nepal has been able to select its leading player Sandeep Lamichhane. Lamichhane was convicted of rape in January and sentenced to eight years in jail. But his conviction was overturned in May by the Nepal High Court.
His application for a visa to travel with the Nepal squad to the United States was rejected. But he has been able to join the team in St. Vincent, bringing the Nepal squad up to its full complement of 15 players in the Caribbean.
New Zealand bowls first
At Tarouba, Trinidad, New Zealand won the toss and chose to bowl in a Group C match against Uganda. The West Indies and Bangladesh already have taken the two Super Eight qualifying spots available from the group.
New Zealand lost its first two matches at the tournament to Bangladesh and the West Indies and can no longer qualify. It sits at the bottom of the group behind Uganda which has two points from a win over Papua New Guinea.
New Zealand’s failure at this tournament ends a run of success at white ball World Cups. It has reached at least the semifinals of the last six white-ball world tournaments over the last decade.


England thrash Oman to revive T20 World Cup campaign

England thrash Oman to revive T20 World Cup campaign
Updated 14 June 2024
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England thrash Oman to revive T20 World Cup campaign

England thrash Oman to revive T20 World Cup campaign
  • This overwhelming Group B victory meant England recorded the largest win in T20 World Cup history in terms of balls remaining
  • Oman had no answer to England's attack, leg-spinner Adil Rashid taking 4-11, while Jofra Archer and Mark Wood had 3-12 figures

ST. JOHN’S, Antigua and Barbuda: England thrashed Oman by eight wickets as the reigning champions revived their T20 World Cup campaign with a record-breaking success in Antigua on Thursday.
Needing a heavy win to bolster their net run-rate (NRR) as they attempt to overhaul Scotland in the race to qualify for the second-round Super Eights, England dismissed Oman for just 47.
England then made 50-2 in a mere 3.1 overs, captain Jos Buttler 24 not out and Jonny Bairstow, who hit the winning boundary, unbeaten on eight.
This overwhelming Group B victory meant England recorded the largest win in T20 World Cup history in terms of balls remaining.
Oman had no answer to England’s combination of spin and pace, leg-break bowler Adil Rashid taking 4-11 from his four overs, while express quicks Jofra Archer and Mark Wood both had figures of 3-12 in an innings that ended with nearly seven overs to spare.
Number seven Shoaib Khan (11) was the only Oman batsman to reach double figures after Buttler won the toss.
Significantly, England’s NRR climbed to 3.081, better than Scotland’s 2.16. England, however, stayed third on three points, behind Scotland’s five.
Already-eliminated Oman, who ended the tournament having lost all four of the games, just scraped past the record lowest completed total of 39 at any T20 World Cup, posted by fellow-non Test nation Uganda against co-hosts West Indies in Guyana last week.
Archer did the early damage with 2-12 in nine balls.
Oman then lost two wickets in Wood’s first over as they slumped to 25-4 in six overs.
The very next delivery wicketkeeper Buttler luckily removed the bails at the second attempt to stump Khalid Kail off Rashid’s first ball Thursday as wickets continued to tumble.
Phil Salt struck the first two balls of England’s chase for six, only to be bowled off the third by Bilal Khan, but his side were on their way.
England, beaten by Australia after their group game with Scotland was abandoned due to rain, play Namibia on Saturday.
Australia and Scotland, however, will meet on Sunday after England have completed their group games.


The unimaginable pressure of playing top class cricket

The unimaginable pressure of playing top class cricket
Updated 13 June 2024
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The unimaginable pressure of playing top class cricket

The unimaginable pressure of playing top class cricket
  • Fear of failure is ever present, so a premium is placed on eliminating mistakes, since continued underperforming can mean the end of a contract or career

Fans of cricket may find it impossible to understand the pressures that professional players are under. Although some of us have played good standard club cricket and faced tight match situations, we have not had the pressure of our career and livelihood being at stake, playing in front of crowds, screened by the media and subject to scrutiny. This is now ubiquitous, both mainstream and on social media.

It was instructive, therefore, to listen to one England’s greatest batsmen, at a time before batter became the preferred term and social media existed, provide some insights into these pressures. This was none other than Yorkshire and England’s Geoffrey Boycott. The occasion marked the launch of the 11th book under Boycott’s name — “Being Geoffrey Boycott,” published by Fairfield books — 60 years since he made his debut for England on June 4, 1964. 

This was at Trent Bridge, Nottingham, against Australia. Looking at pictures of him on the day, his large glasses, cap and kit, unadorned by sponsorship logos, are a large remove from the appearance of modern-day cricketers. However, there is a commonality: that of pressure to succeed. In Boycott’s case, that pressure had been heightened when he was told, aged 17, that he needed to wear glasses. This ended his football career, during which he played for Leeds United’s under-18 team. 

In his debut match he top scored in England’s first innings but could not bat in the second because of a finger injury sustained in the first. This kept him out of the following two matches before he scored his maiden Test match century in August 1964. He would go on to score 8,114 runs in 108 Test matches in a career which had its fair share of controversy and turmoil. Between 1974 and 1977 Boycott made himself unavailable for England selection focussing, instead, on captaining Yorkshire.

In late September 1978, his mother died. Two days afterwards, Yorkshire’s committee met to inform Boycott that he was to be removed as the county’s captain because of a failure to win trophies and his unpopularity amongst the players. Boycott was asked if he had suffered from mental health issues during these years. He said no, he had been close to his mother and it had saddened him to see her deteriorate week after week. His reaction was a natural one to a deeply mourned loss. The treatment by Yorkshire compounded this, in terms of its timing and nature.

From the outside this appears a cold-hearted decision, especially its timing. Boycott was devastated. He continued as a player the following season, breaking more records. This says much about his determination to succeed against the odds. He was known for being a singular man and for spending time away from teammates after play. Cricket involves a series of battles between individuals, primarily between bowler and batter. A wicket, a boundary, a catch, a century, a five-wicket haul represents individual achievement within a team setting. Opponents look to identify and expose weaknesses.

It can be argued that this is the case in all sports. However, cricket has a difference, especially with batting. If a batter makes a mistake, he or she is not straight into the next piece of action. There is time to reflect on the reason for the dismissal. It may be days before the player’s next innings. This allows much time for introspection, analysis and self-analysis.

The fear of failure is ever present, so a premium is placed on eliminating mistakes, since continued underperformance can mean the end of a contract or career. Fear induces nervousness, breeds insecurity and anxiety, creating conditions which counteract those needed to succeed. They are also conditions which sports psychologists recognise as underpinning mental illness.

Professional cricketers, as with other athletes, have an inherent desire to succeed. The consequences of failure are evident from an early age and often result in being dropped from the team. Boycott admitted to having a fear of failure during his career, of nerves and of a determination to overcome them. He said that he was able to block out all external noise when batting. This set him apart from many other players, revealing immense mental strength. He also emphasized the need for high-quality technique and practice. This was echoed by a former Australia captain, Ricky Ponting, who contends that, unless playing a certain shot or bowling a particular delivery has not become a habit, it is almost impossible to produce that shot or delivery under pressure.

Such pressure situations have grown exponentially with the advent of T20 cricket.  These are evident in abundance in the current ICC men’s T20 World Cup. South Africa were 3 for three against the Netherlands and 27 for four against Bangladesh, but recovered to make scores that were just sufficient to earn victory. The recoveries were instigated by the middle order batters, notably David Miller. Imagine the pressure that was on him to perform, especially as South Africa has a history of losing matches which it should have won. Crucially, he reined in his natural game and adapted to the pitch conditions. Bangladesh required 11 runs from six deliveries to win against South Africa, two batters were caught on the boundary trying to hit sixes. The match between India and Pakistan went to a super over. Pakistan’s Mohammad Amir was entrusted with it but, under pressure, failed to bowl straight and Pakistan lost. 

The margins in these pressure situations are very thin. Results can go either way, determined by the performance of those who have trained themselves to be able to handle such situations. The mentality required for this was exemplified by Geoffrey Boycott’s approach to the game, completely unlike that of an all-time great Australian all-rounder, Keith Miller, who had served with the Royal Australian Air Force in the Second World War. His dashing approach to life and cricket was summed up in a single (adapted) quote: “Pressure is a Messerschmitt directly behind you, playing cricket is not.”

How times have changed.